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Archive for March, 2016

Source: Bigger Brains Led to Bigger Bodies?: The Correlated Evolution of Human Brain and Body Size: Current Anthropology: Vol 0, No 0

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Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios of bone collagen are an established method for dietary reconstruction, but this method is limited by the protein preservation. Zinc (Zn) is found in bioapatite and the isotopic compositions of this element constitute a very promising dietary indicator. The extent of fractionation of Zn isotopes in marine environments, however, remains unknown. We report here on the measurement of zinc, carbon and nitrogen isotopes in 47 marine mammals from the archaeological site of Arvik in the Canadian Arctic. We undertook this study to test and demonstrate the utility of Zn isotopes in recent mammal bone minerals as a dietary indicator by comparing them to other isotopic dietary tracers. We found a correlation between δ 66 Zn values and trophic level for most species, with the exception of walruses, which may be caused by their large seasonal movements. δ 6 Zn values can therefore be used as a dietary indicator in marine ecosystems for both modern and recent mammals.

Source: PLOS ONE: Zinc Isotope Ratios as Indicators of Diet and Trophic Level in Arctic Marine Mammals

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(2016). An isotopic generation: four decades of stable isotope analysis in African archaeology. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa: Vol. 51, Emerging Trends in African Archaeology, pp. 88-114. doi: 10.1080/0067270X.2016.1150083

Source: An isotopic generation: four decades of stable isotope analysis in African archaeology – Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa – Volume 51, Issue 1

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Source: Towards understanding isotope variability in elephant ivory to establish isotopic profiling and source-area determination

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Source: Bipedality and hair loss in human evolution revisited: The impact of altitude and activity scheduling

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Mammal teeth have evolved morphologies that allow for the efficient mechanical processing of different foods, therefore increasing dietary energy uptake for maintenance of high metabolic demands. Howe

Source: Morphology is not Destiny: Discrepancy between Form, Function and Dietary Adaptation in Bovid Cheek Teeth – Online First – Springer

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The coastal environments of South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region (CFR) provide some of the earliest and most abundant evidence for the emergence of cognitively modern humans. In particular, the south coast of the CFR provided a uniquely diverse resource base for hunter-gatherers, which included marine shellfish, game, and carbohydrate-bearing plants, especially those with Underground Storage Organs (USOs). It has been hypothesized that these resources underpinned the continuity of human occupation in the region since the Middle Pleistocene. Very little research has been conducted on the foraging potential of carbohydrate resources in the CFR. This study focuses on the seasonal availability of plants with edible carbohydrates at six-weekly intervals over a two-year period in four vegetation types on South Africa’s Cape south coast. Different plant species were considered available to foragers if the edible carbohydrate was directly (i.e. above-ground edible portions) or indirectly (above-ground indications to below-ground edible portions) visible to an expert botanist familiar with this landscape. A total of 52 edible plant species were recorded across all vegetation types. Of these, 33 species were geophytes with edible USOs and 21 species had aboveground edible carbohydrates. Limestone Fynbos had the richest flora, followed by Strandveld, Renosterveld and lastly, Sand Fynbos. The availability of plant species differed across vegetation types and between survey years. The number of available USO species was highest for a six-month period from winter to early summer (Jul–Dec) across all vegetation types. Months of lowest species’ availability were in mid-summer to early autumn (Jan–Apr); the early winter (May–Jun) values were variable, being highest in Limestone Fynbos. However, even during the late summer carbohydrate “crunch,” 25 carbohydrate bearing species were visible across the four vegetation types. To establish a robust resource landscape will require additional spatial mapping of plant species abundances. Nonetheless, our results demonstrate that plant-based carbohydrate resources available to Stone Age foragers of the Cape south coast, especially USOs belonging to the Iridaceae family, are likely to have comprised a reliable and nutritious source of calories over most of the year.

Source: Seasonal availability of edible underground and aboveground carbohydrate resources to human foragers on the Cape south coast, South Africa [PeerJ]

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